On the System of Place Name Signs in Estonian Sign Language

Liina Paales

Abstract


A place name sign is a linguistic-cultural marker that includes both memory and landscape. The author regards toponymic signs in Estonian Sign Language as representations of images held by the Estonian Deaf community: they reflect the geographical place, the period, the relationships of the Deaf community with hearing community, and the common and distinguishing features of the two cultures perceived by community's members.

Name signs represent an element of signlore, which includes various types of creative linguistic play. There are stories hidden behind the place name signs that reveal the etymological origin of place name signs and reflect the community's memory.

The purpose of this article is twofold. Firstly, it aims to introduce Estonian place name signs as Deaf signlore forms, analyse their structure and specify the main formation methods. Secondly, it interprets place-denoting signs in the light of understanding the foundations of Estonian Sign Language, Estonian Deaf education and education history, the traditions of local Deaf communities, and also of the cultural and local traditions of the dominant hearing communities. Both perspectives - linguistic and folkloristic - are represented in the current article.

Keywords


Estonian Deaf community; Estonian Sign Language; signlore; name signs; Estonian place name signs

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ISSN (print) 1736-6518. ISSN (online) 2228-0987. JEF is a joint publication of the University of Tartu, the Estonian National Museum and the Estonian Literary Museum.